Lviv, Ukraine, October 5, 2017
A new Facebook group “Get Moscow Priests Out of Galicia” appeared last month, aiming to collect information on all parishes and priests of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC) in the western Ukrainian border province of Lviv, with calls to oppose the Church.
The banner for the page features a cartoon of a supposedly Russian priest, with crazed eyes, and the Soviet hammer and sickle on his kamilavka. The word for “priests” in the title, “попів,” is considered disrespectful. There are a number of other derogatory and blasphemous images posted throughout the group, including fake icons, and a cartoon of a man in Ukrainian folk clothing violently driving out a priest, who looks more like a rabbi or imam, and who seems to have chicken feet.
The group’s activists ask for information on clergy of the UOC to be sent in, and threaten to develop and implement a plan of opposition to the UOC.
“Our group asks all who are not indifferent to send information here about all activities of the Moscow Patriarchate in the Lviv Province known to you, in particular about individual parishes and their location,” claiming that such parishes lead people astray into the hands of Moscow. “By collecting this information, we here in this group will develop a plan to counter this anti-Ukrainian organization,” the statement, pinned to the top of the page, continues.
“Putin’s army is not only ‘green men’ with AK-74s on tanks,” another message reads. “They are also men in black robes with crosses and censers in their hands. For decades they have poisoned the minds of their parishioners…” the message continues. Another image in the group refers to priests as “agents in riassas.” The message concludes: “The tumor of the Moscow Orthodox Church has spread throughout Ukraine… It is time to say ‘no’ to Moscow Orthodoxy, and to send their priests to their ‘historical homeland’…”